JAKARTA, March 8 2019 : Three Indonesian soldiers were killed after a clash with dozens of rebels in the eastern province of Papua, the military said late yesterday, the latest deaths amid high tensions and violence in the restive region.
Papua, a former Dutch colony and the western part of New Guinea island, was incorporated into Indonesia after a widely criticised U.N.-backed referendum in 1969.
A long-running separatist movement in the region has seen an increase in violence in recent months.
A team of 25 soldiers was ambushed by up to 70 “armed criminals” carrying military-standard weapons and traditional weapons, the Indonesian army said in a statement.
Two military helicopters dispatched to evacuate the soldiers also came under fire, the army said.
Indonesia recently deployed hundreds of soldiers to build a major highway connecting the remotest parts of the resource-rich province, after 16 construction workers were killed by separatists late last year.
President Joko Widodo, who faces an election in April, has vowed to finish the highway project as part of his promise to develop Papua, Indonesia’s poorest region. – Reuters